How do you say "statistically significant" in your native language?
April 24, 2013 12:19 PM   Subscribe

In English, scientists customarily use the word "significant" or "statistically significant" to refer to an effect that is distinguished from zero at a p < .05 confidence level. On the other hand, the word "significant" in non-technical English carries a connotation of being meaningful, important, or substantial; this creates confusion when researchers write about "a significant effect," since the effect might be significant in the statistical sense while being so small as to be insignificant in the common-English sense. In your native language, what word is used for "signficance" in the statistical context? Is the same word used outside the technical context, and if so, is it a word whose common meaning is something more like "detectable," more like "important," or something else entirely? In particular, does the confusion that arises in English also take place in your language?
posted by escabeche to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: It occurs to me that there may be some people who speak language X but don't know how to say "statistically signficant" in language X. So here are a few I have been able to find.

In Chinese: 显著 or 顯著
In French: signficatif
In German: signfikant
In Russian: зна́чимой (but this is drawn from a Wiki page I can't read and I'm not completely sure it's correct.)
posted by escabeche at 12:41 PM on April 24, 2013

In Dutch, the same confusion arises (with the same spelling as in English).
posted by Ms. Next at 12:43 PM on April 24, 2013

In German we have the same problem, it's both "signifikant".
posted by amf at 1:14 PM on April 24, 2013

Best answer: Your Russian is understandably a little off. "Significance" in the statistical sense is "значимость," and the corresponding adjective is "значимый" (modulo grammatical gender, number, and case).

Luckily, the less technical meaning of "significant" is actually "значительный," a very closely related word that's off by a suffix. It's as if English decided to use something like "signifactive" for one of the meanings.
posted by Nomyte at 10:57 PM on April 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

This post made me laugh as it is one of my own pet peeves.
Yes, speakers of my language may also confuse "statistically significant" with "important/considerable".

Polish: istotny statystycznie
istotny: significant, important
posted by M. at 11:55 PM on April 25, 2013

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